As a young teenager I discovered a true love for scripture and embarked on a cover-to-cover reading of my tattered New King James.
Upon reading the chapters upon chapters of Law in the first few books, I wondered whether my own life ought to look a little more ‘Jewish.’
Many months later in reading the New Testament, my faith in the ‘letter of the Law’ had been chipped away in favour of the ‘spirit of the Law.’
At the time of Jesus’ ministry, the Law as it had been enforced by the religious leaders, was in stark contrast to the law Jesus fulfilled. In healing the crippled on the sabbath, touching the unclean leper and the woman with the issue of blood and defending the woman who was caught in adultery, Jesus broke the human interpretation of Law and established the spirit of the Law which had always been intended.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’.This is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew chapter 22, verse 37-40)
A few years ago, in pursuit of knowledge of God, a friend of mine became entangled in the ‘Hebrew Roots’ movement. What began as a familiar and well-meaning investigation into Jewish Law and tradition drove her to a place of profound uncertainty; despite her new efforts to grow closer to God though observance, she grew all the more distant in failing to adhere to the commandments.
Where I found the spirit of the Law revealed through Christ, she found Christ obscured by the letter of the Law. She began to doubt the divinity of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Growing increasingly less secure in her salvation, she’d bring to me a new text, a sermon, paper, or ‘alternate’bible translation each week for my opinion. I’d devour and debunk each new thesis and the end of each week, I’d present her with pages of refutation I believed would release her from what had become a stumbling block, but it never swayed her.
Defeated and discouraged, I resolved ‘only God’s grace’ could persuade her.
Much later, having moved cities and churches, I heard a pastor mention my friend saying, “What a disappointment it was no-one had bothered to reach out to her.”
My immediate response was personal offence, having spent hours and expertise reaching out to her; but of course, the still, small, often humbling, voice prevailed and I was left wondering what had gone wrong.
In Luke 15 Jesus tells the three ‘parables of redemption,’ the lost coin, the lost sheep and the prodigal son. My friend was in no way consciously rebelling as the son had, nor did she simply ‘fall away’ rather, with the intention of pursuing God on a deeper plane, she wandered like the lost sheep.
Now the question is, why?
We were both part of a thriving young adults ministry at the time; numbers were increasing, outreach was successful and the congregation was thriving. A number of programs had been instituted to evangelise in local universities, renovations to our church building had created ambient spaces conducive to building relationships, every effort had been made to build connection and community within the church and specifically the Young Adults ministry.
It was a ‘home’ where no son in their right mind would rebel, with systems so flawless, not a single coin could slip through the cracks, yet while ninety-nine found home, the one continued to wander.
I had made a mistake.
My friend didn’t need evidence, ambiance, free coffee or friendship; she didn’t wander for lack of these things, she wandered because she had a hunger for God which was not being filled and what she consumed only fed her doubt and shame.
When a sheep has wandered into the rocky hills you cannot stand from within the flock and shout the reasons why they should return, nor can you wave the joys of fellowship and expect them to wander back. The sheep leaves the flock when they cannot see the shepherd (Jesus).
There was an end to my investigation and it was Christ, the fulfilment of the Law.Perhaps if she had seen more of Jesus in church, perhaps if I had set aside the thrill of debate, my own idolatry of the letter in reaching out to her and instead led with the healing hand of Jesus, the story would be different.
As churches, we’ve grown to excel in collecting lost coins and accepting rebellious sons; we’ve counted the ninety-nine as a success, but there is still one; and the ‘only’ answer is Jesus Christ.
“…but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John chapter 4, verse 14)
Laura Wardrop has undertaken further study in the areas of Linguistics, Art, and Ministry. She currently works a graphic artist and painter, and takes a keen interest in exploring all areas of human creativity as a reflection of God’s character. She lives with her husband Stephen and two children in Brisbane.